Will You Please Use They, Please?

I went to the bank to finally get a new signature card (they had rejected my name change at first for some technical issue). It was a very hot day for San Francisco, and I really thought I presented myself as feminine of center, wearing a skirt and a shirt I made that has ruffles, and earrings (which my brother seems to think is the definitive sign that one has shed masculinity). So I was surprised when the bank person, talking about how to do this over the phone to a manager, referred to me as “he.” All along, I thought I should correct them to say “they,” but this was an already difficult situation, what with a bank being the ultimate conservative environment. Yet, I pointed out I have an X on my new driver’s license, and that I now get mail addressed to me as “MX” instead of “MR” or “MS.” So I let go. These are minor interactions, after all. They pointed out I looked younger than I actually am (scoring points with my esteem), and when I mentioned it may be because I didn’t have kids, they pointed out they had one on the way (pointing at a belly) in addition to another one.

Still it would make sense that they would use “they” when referring to clients, regardless of their opinion when they have the client in front of them. I could tell they were trying to remain discrete when talking about me on the phone, and using “they” would be even more discrete. Especially when it’s obvious the person in front of you is dressed in what you perceive as cross gender. I’ve been told it’s the shoulders that betray me, and on a hot day like today, I wore a sleeveless shirt. Do I have to be stressed out about that too? Not showing shoulders, as if entering a church in Italy? Oh, wait, in Italy they would see me as a male, so they would ask me to take my hat off… It makes me rather antisocial, to think that someone should be the judge of my gender and then ask me to conform to their gender-specific code of conduct.

But I diverge. Listen to self-described Grammar Geezer Geoff Nunberg about the use of “they” and other gender neutral pronouns here: www.npr.org/2019/08/06/744121321/even-a-grammar-geezer-like-me-can-get-used-to-gender-neutral-pronouns. And if you still object as a grammar queen, know that I have been a grammar queen until I realized that most people haven’t studied grammar, or weren’t listening when they did, and they seem to be perfectly alright adopting new terms heard on TV shows. One objection is that “they” is confusing in a sentence, but I just encountered a sentence where “she” was confusing (just have two women in a story)… Perhaps it would be a good thing to try using “they” just because it would point out that your sentence wasn’t correct in the first place…

At least the bank person didn’t call me “Sir…” It is possible that they’ve been told not to use hierarchical deferential words like “Sir” and “Mam” – although they pointed out some people like to add “PhD” to their name, and I wondered if they ask for a certified copy of the diploma…

Anyway, I can now use my new signature, and it feels just great…

p.s. this is also a great introduction to they/them: A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

p.s. my good friends use “she” when referring to me, which is sort of ahead of me in transition, if only I wanted to conform to the binary…  Smashing the binary for me is a way to allow myself the exploration, but also to prevent the deluge of objections to my adopting one of the two options that doesn’t match the assignment at birth…

 

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One thought on “Will You Please Use They, Please?

  1. and so it happened again: I used the wrong pronoun last night for someone whom I know uses They! Really? I need to practice. But I also need ways to say sorry, because I realize my blunder later, by myself, on my way home (this time I also blanked on someone’s name, which is a horrible experience). I should investigate how people deal with blunders – maybe write to Miss Manners!

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